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All relationships have their ups and downs, whether it’s struggles with a partner or difficulties in the family. Our Relationship Stories section shows the unique features of relationships in gloriously written technicolour.
Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily's fierce-hearted black 'stand-in mother', Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina - a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey. And there Lily starts a journey as much about her understanding of the world as about the mystery surrounding her mother.
Hard to put down. It is set in a rural village in Wiltshire, home to the Liddiards whose family brewery is under threat. As are the foundations of their family, creaking under the many secrets and betrayals hidden within it. Despite the picture postcard setting, there is a fair amount of action going on and it all gets a little complicated. Highly recommended.
Full of some very memorable characters Dartmouth Circle gives a fascinating insight into the paranoia and hidden goings on in a suburban community. Well-written with considerable page-turnability Dartmouth Circle is set in the unusual setting of a cul-de-sac and it features on the one hand some newly arrived students with the usual drug, sex, small time crime and alchoholic party way of life juxtaposed with the existing close-knit older residents who view their peaceful routine as a way of life and, in fact fear the new upstarts and the changing circumstances wrought on the community. However, itâ€™s easy to empathise with both students and residents alike despite their considerable age difference. But, the residentsâ€™ fears are justified and troubles surface particularly when a relationship grows between one of the younger residents of Dartmouth Circle and one of the newly arrived young studentsâ€¦..
An accomplished and sensitive writer but of all her lovely books I don’t think she has written another as good as this, her first. It’s about an irritating city girl who takes to the backpackers’ trail and slowly has her narrow-mindedness squeezed out of her. The book changes gear once she believes she has a serial killer on her tail. Comparison: William Sutcliffe (Are You Experienced?), Alex Garland (The Beach), Adele Parks.
A 2014 World Book Night selection. When this and its sequels first came out in the early 80s it predated HIV and AIDS and reading this now I think one must remember that. They are set in an imaginary world which centres round the inhabitants of 28 Barbary Lane. With the feel of a serial novel we follow many characters in short, easy sections through their young city lives in San Francisco. It made a wonderful TV series in the 90s but the seven books give you so much more. I love them. August 2011 Guest Editor Deborah Lawrenson on Armistead Maupin... Armistead Maupin. I just adore the Tales of the City series with its great, exuberant cast of lovable characters. Maupin writes pin-sharp prose that can capture an ambiance or a foible in a finely-tuned phrase. The fog rolling in across the San Francisco Bay presses itself against a window “like a fat lady in ermine”. A "Piece of Passion" from the publisher... ‘I feel jealous of anyone discovering this series for the first time, they have so much fun ahead of them. This is the first volume and introduces us to our hero Michael Tolliver, the naïve but ambitious Mary-Anne Singleton, the eccentric and loveable Mrs Madrigal and the magical, chaotic city of San Francisco in the late seventies. Witty, poignant, moving, life-affirming, a literary soap opera, this book is a total joy to read, you will love these characters and want to keep going back to Maupin’s later books for more instalments. This is book for anyone and everyone, and is totally addictive.' Judith Welsh, Managing Editor at Transworld
Into a small rural French village comes a mysterious woman, Vianne, her young daughter and the child’s invisible rabbit. They open a chocolate shop opposite the church. It is Lent and a strange war breaks out between the church and the shop. In alternating chapters between the priest and Vianne we are given views of good and evil, temptation and righteousness and a thought-provoking story unfolds. This is quite delicious, all of it – the villager’s and their secrets, the Frenchness of it all and the chocolate. A far greater book than the film. A "Piece of Passion" from the publisher... ‘I’ve always believed you can’t go wrong with love and chocolate: and this deliciously has both. This is a novel which is totally irresistible, because it works on so many different levels: there’s the lovely French setting, the sensuousness of the food and the seriousness of the underlying themes, mixed with a dash of magic, a pinch of ancient wisdom, plus gentle humour and a clear-eyed insight into the most repressed of emotions. Joanne Harris has gone on to write a whole string of bestsellers, often sensuous, sometimes chilling, always surprising – but Chocolat remains the one she is best-known for, and most-loved, too.' Marianne Velmans, Publishing Director at Transworld
The stunning sequel to the amazing The Bone Season which I really recommend reading first. It starts exactly where the last book finished with the clairvoyant attempting to return to London from the penal colony of Steol I. So now a life of hiding, running, intrigue and power mongering awaits our brave narrator Paige as it seems the whole of London is after her. This is dystopian fiction with a real difference, an extremely rich world with real depth. Paige wants to overthrow the tyrannical rulers, of course, but that will be so much harder here than it often is for plucky heroines in this genre. There are so many layers to scion society, attacking the government won’t be enough. She needs to start a rebellion and probably a war. Complex, vivid and compelling, it really is the best of its kind and more so. ~ Sarah Broadhurst A must-read for me, beautifully fast-paced, and adventurous, The Mime Order is the second novel in the superb The Bone Season dystopian fantasy series, and continues immediately after the first finishes. Paige and the rest of the survivors find themselves heading back towards London, can Paige create order from the chaos? You really can’t just drop into the middle of this series, start at the beginning and experience the joy of discovery. As relationships develop we begin to see deeper into hearts, understand what makes people tick, what has made them who they are. Samantha Shannon has the most incredible imagination, this world is impressive, so fully realised and vividly clear. I felt as though I was side by side with Paige as danger threatens the very heart of everything she holds dear (in fact, to be honest, I wanted to be Paige!). Weaving, diving, and absolutely thrilling, The Mime Order continues a very special series, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. ~ Liz Robinson
A 2011 World Book Night selection. Rachel Walsh has a pair of size 8 feet and such a fondness for recreational drugs that her family has forked out the cash for a spell in Cloisters - Dublin's answer to the Betty Ford Clinic. She's only agreed to her incarceration because she's heard that rehab is wall-to-wall jacuzzis, gymnasiums and rock stars going tepid turkey. Our Editorial Guru, Sarah Broadhurst, has suggested others book and authors that would be perfect for you to read next or to pass on the recommendation - so your gift will keep on giving enjoyment. Her selections for this title are: Sheila O'Flanagan, Lisa Jewell.
September 2009 Good Housekeeping selection. On My Bookshelf by Penny Smith... This wasn’t a set text for us at school, but I read it anyway and it got me into the classics big time. I had such vivid pictures of all the characters and places. Sadly, every adaptation, including the fantastic one with Colin Firth, was never a patch on my image of what they all looked like and were like. Plus I just love a love story… GMTV presenter Penny Smith is passionate about books and is now a novelist herself; her latest fiction, After The Break, is published by Harper Perennial.
To all intents and purposes this was Joanna’s first novel and it was the start of a genre labelled ‘aga saga’ – upper-middleclass country families getting into all sorts of messes. Joanna is queen of this type of novel and has grown with each new one. She’s lovely. She actually started her writing career penning historical novels under the name of Caroline Harvey. A "Piece of Passion" from the publisher... ‘A funny, intelligent and wonderfully involving novel for anyone who’s ever thought of leaving the rat race for the peace of village life – or who’s wondered if their present existence really contains all that life has to offer.' Linda Evans, Senior Editorial Director at Transworld
The ultimate weepy. Two people from different sides of the tracks meet at Harvard and fall in love. We don’t really need to say too much more. If you don’t know the story though you really must read it. August 2009 Guest Editor Erica James on Love Story by ERICH SEGAL Eric Segal’s Love Story was another book I read when I had just started writing and I was really struck by the witty and snappy dialogue and the sparseness of the narrative. As short as the novel is – I call it bite-sized! – it’s an excellent example of less is more and I always try to remind myself of this when I’m writing.
More than just romance, Relationship Stories can really strike a chord with us, at every stage of life. Just like relationships themselves, these books and there authors come in all shapes, sizes, atmospheres and aspirations. So, if something was missing from your last relationship read … we’ll help you find it in your next one! Here you’ll find the warm and the wise (Maeve Binchy, Cathy Kelly, Rosamunde Pilcher), the deliciously sexy (Jilly Cooper, Veronica Henry), the humourous and honest (Nick Hornby), the insightful (Joanna Trollope) and the … Perhaps, though you’re looking for a new relationship? Why not try our’ Author Like for Like’ tool or make a date with our Book of the Month recommendations and find your perfect match … for now, at least!